June 14 - A lack of camp sites and decent roads and legal confusion is said to be holding back an explosion in China's recreational vehicle market. Paul Chapman reports.
Wang Xudong is known as a red ant. They're a small but determined breed of enthusiasts in China who hitch up their caravans and head off into the countryside at every opportunity. The Chinese market for such recreational vehicles is tiny compared to the United States. More than a quarter of a million are sold in the U.S. annually. In China the total is about 1, 000. But Wang, who also sells recreational vehicles, says there's a boom just waiting to happen. SOUNDBITE: WANG XUDONG, RV CHINA ASSOCIATION SECRETARY AND RV RETAILER, SAYING (Mandarin): "Just like ten years ago when cars first entered the lives of Chinese families, it exploded like a volcano erupting, and car manufacturing has prospered. It'll be the same with RVs. Everyone is just waiting to see what happens. When the problems are resolved the potential customers will quickly start to buy." Those problems are, simply, a lack of decent roads and a dire shortage of camp sites. On top of that caravans aren't an established vehicle category so there's a high probability of being stopped by the police. That's not putting off Dai Qihong who's looking to buy an RV very soon. SOUNDBITE: DAI QUIHONG, POTENTIAL RV BUYER, SAYING (Mandarin): "You don't have to worry about where to stay when you're driving around in an RV. You're much more comfortable on the journey because you don't have to rush from one place to another by a fixed time. When you see beautiful scenery you can stop any time." At the moment China's red ants are mostly senior business people and managers with the luxury of cash and time to spare. Prices at the top of the range can be as high as 315, 000 dollars. Domestic RV makers dominate about two thirds of the market but Wang says one U.S. based exporter to China reckons sales will skyrocket to half a million annually in 20 years. Paul Chapman, Reuters